Good Dogs, Unleashed!


Adventures in Seafood
May 14, 2012, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Miscellaneous, Petey

Disclaimer: There is little to nothing interesting about this post.

We went to the beach this weekend again. It’s all of our favorite place. We checked out low tide and found a bunch of sea creatures stuck in the tide pools. Chomper was, as usual, most interested in seagulls. In fact, the first thing she did was bully a sea bird out of it’s meal. Here she is eating a freshly stolen mussel, shell and all.

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The most delicious food is stolen food.

Petey has almost no interest in the birds, but lots of interest in things to eat. He loves digging in the dry sand. I have no idea what he’s eating down there, he always gets to it before I see it. He seems to think that the best way to dig is to lay on his side with his head against the sand, digging sideways. It’s absolutely hilarious. Of course, we didn’t bring the camera then, so we have no proof of this, but trust me, it’s cute.

We found dozens of little crabs that had gotten stuck in the tide pools. Most of them were dead, but we did find a few live ones. We tried to get some pictures, but the dogs kept nudging my hand around trying to see what kind of squirmy toy I had picked up.

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Food?

Eventually, Petey decided he had better uses for a live crab than we did.

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FOOD!

As he does with everything, he ate it. Alive. Shell and all.

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Delicious.

We decided he was right, so we got ourselves some crab cake sandwiches and beer and had lunch on the beach. Without the fur monsters. 



Easter Beach Trip
April 9, 2012, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Miscellaneous, Petey | Tags:

We decided to skip out on the family Easter mania this weekend in favor of a trip to the beach. This was an excellent decision, even if we barely left the house except to take the dogs on the beach and watch the Flyers lose to the Penguins. The dogs had a great time and Chomper got to accompany us when we went out for water ice. She wore her new Baskerville Ultra Muzzle, which fits her much better than her old one, and while she was super reactive, it was a tough situation for her (two golden retrievers with a family full of people) and she did eventually settle down. Petey of course, had a lovely time and made friends with a beagley mix he met on the beach while ignoring us.

Our last walk out, the tide was out and there were lots of small tide pools for the two fur idiots to get soaked and sandy in. We stupidly neglected to bring the camera, but on their trip they chased dozens of seagulls (mostly Chomper) and Petey met a real live crab which he tried to eat while I explained to him what claws do. Luckily, he was much more interested in running around, so his nose stayed un-pinched. Unfortunately for all those involved (or maybe just us humans), the pet store where we like to stop for baths on the way home closed early for the holiday, so I still have two sandy dogs as I sit here. This will be rectified at our local store some time this week.

As for us, I ended up with a nice April sunburn from enjoying the weather a bit too much, and boyfriend got to drink margaritas and relax and take naps, which he never gets to do. I plan to spend the day drinking water and applying aloe lotion while the dogs continue sleeping off the weekend. So far, so good. Overall, excellent weekend had by all, now I just need to convince boyfriend that we should go back again THIS weekend.

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Spring is Here!
April 5, 2012, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Miscellaneous, Training | Tags: , ,

Considering the last post I made was in September, I’m going to go with the excuse of “I was hibernating.” By hibernating I mean snuggling the dogs and my Kindle while drinking wine in front of the fireplace. Although realistically, it’s just me taking dozens of photos of the endlessly handsome Petesworth while Chomper hides under the bed. Her noise phobia gets the best of her and it’s difficult to desensitize her against the unpredictable popping of wood. Petey on the other hand, cannot get enough.

Petey enjoys his fireplace photoshoots almost as much as the fire itself.

The winter was super mild this year though, so we didn’t spend the whole time inside. Boyfriend and I got into geocaching in the fall and spent a good deal of time traipsing through the woods with one or both dogs in tow. For those who aren’t familiar, Geocaching is sort of like a world wide scavenger hunt where people hide small containers and everyone else looks for them. Containers always hold a log book for everyone to sign when they find the cache, but many are large enough to leave other little objects as calling cards or for trading. It’s easy and free and all you need is a hand held GPS unit or a smart phone. You can find way more info at Geocaching.com. One of the best parts about geocaching is that it has introduced us to all sorts of parks and other natural areas we had no idea were there. We spent the week between Christmas and New Years at the beach and found quite a few small, beautiful parks. It’s a really fun thing for us and the dogs get to go exploring in new places too, so they’re big fans.

 

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A gorgeous park near Ocean City, Maryland.

We also moved into a new place and that was a huge pain, but it’s turning out to be a great training opportunity for Chomper. She’s been a neurotic mess since the day I got her and I’ve tried a million different training methods to work with her fear and anxiety. I have half a dozen different books on the subject, but none of the classic counter-conditioning or desensitization has ever worked for her. In the fall I purchased yet another book, Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) for Fear, Frustration and Aggression in Dogs. This book is in the process of changing Chomper’s life. Detailing exactly what BAT is will come in a later post, but for Chomper, BAT is rewarding her bravest behavior by increasing the distance between her an the thing she is afraid of. So, Chomper is afraid of children. When we’re on a walk and she notices a child, she has to make a decision between getting upset and ignoring the child. Normally, Chomper’s first reaction is to stiffen her entire body, raise her tail and freeze in place before lunging forward and whining then spinning around and repeating the lunge and whine. She’s doing this so that the child will go away. Normally, either the child gets totally freaked out and runs away, or I drag Chomper off in the other direction. Either way, Chomper is getting what she wants (distance from something scary) for doing a behavior that I don’t want (being fearful and defensive). WIth BAT, I wait for Chomper to notice her trigger (people, cats, dogs…) and wait for her to give any type of displacement behavior (relaxing her body language, turning away, sniffing the ground…). The second she provides a displacement behavior, I click and turn around and walk away from the trigger, thereby giving Chomper the distance that she wants, while slowly showing her what good behaviors she can offer to earn that distance. Like I said, it’s kind of a complicated idea to explain in a short paragraph, but the point is, it’s working fantastically.

We’ve only been trying the BAT for a little while now, but Chomper is finally starting to show some improvement with her behavior. In order to keep track of her positive strides and to help keep my moral up when things aren’t going well, I’ve decided to keep a list of things Chomper has not reacted to. So, yesterday, Chomper walked past the following things without reacting in a negative way:

  1. An elementary-aged kid tossing a baseball in the air about 20 yards away
  2. An older man sitting on his front porch with a yappy dog (I don’t think Chomp saw the dog but she definitely heard it) about 10 feet away
  3. Three teenagers tossing a football back and forth about 20 yards away
  4. Four elementary-aged kids coming directly toward us from about 20 feet away-this one was super hard for her, she still whined, but she also still turned away, so it counts
  5. A man sitting on the curb talking on the phone from about 15 yards away-this was another tough one, she tends to do worse with men than women

As you can see, I’m trying to be as specific as possible so that I can keep track of what is more difficult for her so that I can be prepared when those situations present themselves. So far so good. We’re even making progress with not reacting to everyone that passes by when Chomp is on the deck. Unless it’s a cat, in which case you can forget about it. I’ll do my best to keep updating the list of things she’s doing well with. Having a reactive dog is hard as hell, but seeing a positive change in her behavior feels amazing.



Old Dogs, New Tricks
August 16, 2011, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Training

So this month, one of my all time favorite stores, Borders, started liquidating their stock of books. I’m both happy and sad. Happy because I can buy ridiculously cheap books. Sad because I’ve spent countless hours in that store since I was in high school. However, I may have been a slight part of the problem, because I often found books there that I wanted to read, then went home and downloaded them to my Kindle.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I heard, was pick up a bunch of dog books (obviously). Now, you would not believe the ridiculousness of some of the books there. Let’s start with the one I opened up to this:

Yeah, right. In no way would this end with me getting my feet bitten off.

Now, I’d love to give you the source for this, but I can’t remember for the life of my what it is. I’m leaning toward a book by Kyra Sundance. Yes, that is her name. While clearly this means that her parents were on hard drugs, I try not to hold it against her, because she’s a great trainer. I want to say this was from her 101 Things to Do With Your Dog book. Clearly this is not something a sane person does with their dog. Also, your dog will hate this.

There were other books too. Like this:

Dog names for people who have apparently never met any dogs.

Really? A dog name book? Let me tell you something. After 10 years working with other people’s dogs, I can tell you that they are all named the same things. Bailey, Buddy, Sandy, Bella, Maggie, Max, Lucy, Daisy… Occasionally you’ll get a great, unique name. My favorite so far was Waffles. That was a cat though. Either way, if you need a dog name book, you probably shouldn’t have a dog. That being said, I highly suggest taking a look at Veterinary Pet Insurance’s craziest names list. They include such absolute winners as Sir Broccoli and Sir Oswald Wigglesworth. Then again, they also include losers like Yager Myster Baby Puppins. Because apparently someone can’t spell Jagermeister. My point is that you can pretty much name your dog anything, so why do you need a book? Also, have you heard of the internet?

This is one that I’ve sadly seen in real life. Crazy pants groomers compete in creativity challenges at grooming competitions and expos around the country doing things like this. It takes hours. The dog has to stand still, on a table, for hours. I wouldn’t want to do it, I know my dogs wouldn’t want to do it, and I can’t imagine their dogs enjoy it much either. That being said, how ridiculous is this?

This dog hates its life.

After laughing hysterically at a lot of books, including one that claimed to be able to teach your dog to talk to you with sign language (not respond to your hand signals, but tell you who was at the door by lifting his back left foot and moving it in a circle kind of sign language), I did actually end up with a few. Remember I mentioned crazy named Kyra Sundance? She’s got two great trick books. One for puppies and one for dogs. Despite the fact that they include pictures like this:

No.

And this:

Also no.

They really are beautifully designed books with great step-by-step photos of how to teach your dog new things. She covers everything from the basic sit, stay, come, to advanced things like jump over my crotch while the blood flows to my head. I also am endlessly amused by the fact that she shows how to teach your puppy to get a soda from the fridge, then uses the same steps to teach your dog to get a beer. Because your puppy is obviously not old enough for beer. Petey and the boyfriend apparently disagree with me on this:

This beer has the word "dog" on the label. Clearly this makes it mine.

I’ve been using the books’ ideas to come up with new things to teach the dogs, and have had a lot of success. Petey now knows how to sit, lie down, stay, come, focus, shake, spin, beg, high five (while in the beg position), army crawl, put his two front paws up on something and ask for beer (thank you boyfriend). Chomper can do all of those plus target any object and turn on a push light. I’m working on play dead, roll over and be ashamed with both of them.

In addition to plain old tricks, I also purchased a kid’s play tunnel to go with my homemade weave polls and balance board/teeter/big piece of wood that i balance on one or more smaller pieces of wood. They love the tunnel and both are running throughout without hesitation. Chomper still doesn’t love the weave polls and seems to look at me like I’m asking her to put an umbrella in the dishwasher. She thinks it’s pointless and she’s only doing it because I’m giving her liver treats. Even then she’s only willing to do it once or twice before she tells me to go shove it while looking at me with disdain.

Like this.

Petey on the other hand loves the weave poles and looks like he has the makings of an agility champ. If, you know, I had the desire to put that kind of effort in to competing with my dog.

I’ve also been using the tunnel as a jump hoop while it’s folded up. They love it and Petey can jump ridiculously high for his size. I have a feeling this will manifest itself in fence jumping in the near future.



Catching Up
August 16, 2011, 6:17 pm
Filed under: Chomper

So I’ve been neglecting this blog (yes, again) but I have a good reason. I’ve started writing the National Dogs Examiner column for Examiner.com. It’s been difficult to get things up and running, there’s so many things to write about, yet I have such a hard time picking something and sticking to it. Refilling my Adderall script has helped with that. Anyway, I highly suggest you pop over to the column if you want to check out national stories featuring dogs. I’ll also have some general advice on their as well. Here will stick to local stuff for now and training tips.

So last you heard, Petey had lost his first canine tooth and we’d found it in the carpet. Yay! Well, since then he’s lost almost all of his teeth, and we’ve found 4 or 5 of them. The teething has made him much more of a chewer, but luckily, he’s sticking to his toys and bones. He also got to have his first marrow bone last week. He was in heaven, as you can see.

Yes, of course I love you bone!

He’s also been scheduled for the big snip snip. It’s this Thursday. As a tech, I know there’s nothing to be worried about. Neuters rarely have complications and are done in about 45 seconds. I could do one with my eyes closed. As a momma, I’m worried sick. What if he has a reaction to the anesthesia? What if something goes wrong during surgery? What if they don’t give fluids while he’s under? What if they have a new tech and she gives him the wrong dose of meds? What if a unicorn flies through the window and distracts the doctor and she cuts off one of his legs!??!?! Obviously, I am handling this much worse than he will. He loves everyone and I’m sure he will walk through those hospital doors with not a care in the world and come out tail wagging a few hours later. That doesn’t mean I won’t spend the day staring at my watch.

Pete’s also going to be microchipped on Thursday. If you don’t know what microchipping is, it’s a simple procedure where a vet injects a small RFID chip under the skin, between the shoulder blades. The chip has a unique number that you can register your information to. If your dog ever gets lost, any vet or shelter can simply wave a scanner over his back, see the number and contact you. It’s by far the best thing anyone can do for their dog, next to altering of course. It’s the primary way dogs get reunited with their owners these days, since collar ID tags can become separated or damaged. I’ve had to replace Chomper’s tags twice in the 3 years I’ve had her.

Speaking of Chomper, she’s back on her Prozac since we’re moving at the end of the month. She has serious anxiety issues, and although we work on it, she does poorly with change. She didn’t do well when we moved last year, but the boy toy and I also were living together for the first time, so there’s a good chance that made things worse. Hopefully she’ll take to the new house better. We’ve been looking for a place with a fenced in yard and we think we’ve found a winner. We should know soon.



Progress in the Food Aggression Department
July 11, 2011, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Training

Chomper not eating Petey

Chomper has issues with food. She doesn’t like other dogs anywhere near her when she’s eating her meals, or if she has a bone or treat-dispensing toy. She also doesn’t like it if there are strangers moving too quickly near any of those things. We’ve been working on it. A lot. So this picture of the two of them eating a snack out of a Busy Ball and a Kong Genius is a miracle. This lasted about 10 minutes. Then Petey finished his food and Chomper tried to eat him. It was awesome while it lasted.

Self Control



Welcome (again)
July 11, 2011, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Uncategorized

Welcome once again to the Good Dogs, Unleashed Blog. We had a lot going on this year, so we let the blog fall down the priority list, but not anymore! We’re going to take a bit of a different tactic than before, but we think you’ll enjoy it none-the-less. So before we get started, a little bit about us!

Chomper

Our dog, Chomper.

First, the important part…the dogs. Above is Chomper. She’s a pound puppy mutt from a shelter in South Carolina. The general consensus is that she’s a border collie/chow mix. She was born in September 2007, and I adopted her winter of 2008. She’s super affectionate and generally pretty lazy when we’re in the house. When we’re outside, she does nothing but run. Unless it’s hot, in which case she’s laying in whatever body of water she can find. She’s got a great personality, and is super expressive. She always has a a way of telling us what she wants, and that’s usually by staring at us while kicking out one of her back legs and chuffing. She’s also got some not great habits, that we’re trying to break her of. She’s very protective of me and the house, she hates children (but so do I, so it’s not that big of a problem for me) and she’s very reactive to other dogs while she’s on a leash. She’s also terrified of anything that beeps, thunderstorms and the ice machine. There are days I want to smoosh her stupid face into oblivion, but mostly, she’s a snuggle bug that I couldn’t live without.

Petey in the Car

Petey

This is Petey. He’s the best puppy ever. He’s super calm, doesn’t chew anything, loves to get in your lap and snuggle, and is smart as a whip. We assume that he hasn’t been adopted yet because of his minor underbite and pittbull look. Everyone that meets him falls instantly in love with him. He gets along with everyone, other dogs and really couldn’t care less about cats. He’s made such a change in Chomper’s fear level, and we’re so crazy for him. I’ve gotten a letter stating my need for a service dog, technically a psychiatric support dog. While he’s not allowed public access due to changes made to the definition of the word service dog (these changes are being appealed by a variety of mental health organizations, especially veterans groups that work with PTSD dogs), he is going to be a wonderful addition to our family of crazy.

Petey and Me

Posing with Petey

So now for me. I’ve been in love with dogs since before I can remember. I begged for a dog for every holiday from the time I could speak. I had dozens of stuffed dogs that I would “feed” and “walk” to prove that I could be responsible. I had a Dalmatian birthday party when I was 5 that was all about the dogs and nothing about the movie. I used to make my parents keep a box of dog treats in the house so I could feed the neighbor’s beagley mix named Snickers. I cried when I saw her owner hit her. I checked out every book on dogs in my elementary school library, and 4 years later, my sister checked out the same books, with my name still on the cards (remember when you signed out books?). When I was 14, my parents finally decided we could get a dog. We got a gorgeous mutt from the local humane society and named her Sandy. She was absolutely the perfect dog. She still is. She never gave us one problem, and she learned tricks like it was her job. That year I decided to apply for a job at her veterinarian’s office. I worked in the kennels scrubbing cages, walking and feeding the animals who were boarding, and scooping pound after pound of poop. It was hard and dirty and kids that age aren’t even allowed to work those jobs anymore, and I loved it. Over the years, I worked in multiple hospitals, first in the kennels, then as an assistant, then as a technician, which is basically a nurse for animals. In between hospitals, I also got trained as a groomer, and although I wasn’t bad, I didn’t feel like I had the artistic eye that it required. The hospitals were where I was the happiest. It brought my 2 life-long loves together, science and dogs. I loved the medicine and the lab work and the fact that I never knew what the next shift would entail. Unfortunately for me, I was injured in a car accident, when an 80 year old idiot drove through a stop sign across a major road, totaling my car and ending any career with physical exertion. A nurse with spinal issues is an unemployed nurse. Lucky for me, I had another experience with dogs to fall back on.

When I was in college, I helped to form a university club with The Seeing Eye, raising puppies to be guide dogs. We got dogs at 7-8 weeks old, lived in the dorms with them, took them to classes and out shopping, and trained and socialized them for their future careers. After a year and a half, we gave them back and crossed our fingers that they would pass even more rigorous training and be paired with blind graduates. My close friend and I each raised our own dog, and we helped raised each others as well. Both of our dogs went on to graduate the program and as far as we know, are still working as guide dogs today. I had really enjoyed the process of training these dogs, and had continued to follow the training world while working in the veterinary one. I had luckily started my certification process the year before the accident, and being off on disability allowed me a chance to read dozens of training books (when not doped up on narcotic pain medication or sleeping through muscle relaxers). After months of physical therapy, I started up a training business and fell in love with it. I love helping people find a better way to communicate with their dogs and helping dogs with behavioral problems stay out of shelters and off the euthanasia list. I also really like having a way to educate people about dog health, behavior and training. Plus, I love to hear myself talk, so there’s that.

So that brings us to now. I’m still unable to do anything too strenuous, and since most of my training clients are in the evenings, I find myself with a lot of free time on my hands during the day. I still have a lot to say, and I still stay up to date on all aspects of the canine world, so I thought I’d start this blog back up. I’m not sure what exactly it will be, but I think I’ll just wait and see what happens.